When a program pretends to crash

By | June 15, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this month:

  • When a program pretends to crash
  • A warning word about online banking with some banks
  • A website that saved me time
  • Updated videos – I forgot last time!

Hello

A useful tip for you this month – that can save you frustration when a program seems to hang or crash but hasn’t really.  Plus a handy website that I discovered the other day and something you should know if you’re thinking about using online banking.

When a Program Seems to Hang or Crash

One of the most frustrating things about computers is when they hang, or crash.  Sometimes you can’t even tell whether it’s really crashed or whether it’s just taking a long time over something – which is why I recommend making a cup of tea if your PC seems to be getting itself in a pickle.  Often it’ll sort itself out in the meantime.

But some programs have a nasty habit of pretending to crash.  You find it’s stopped responding to any clicks you make.  Maybe it does nothing at all or it might make a dinging noise every time you click on it.  Either way, it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

Sometimes this is genuinely because it’s crashed and all you can do is shut the program down or even restart the PC.  But sometimes it’s just pretending to crash.

What happens is the program pops up another window that it needs you to click on – maybe just to click Next or maybe to choose an option.  But for some daft reason it puts this new window behind the main one, so you can’t see it.  Until you’ve clicked on this new window the main one won’t respond at all.

This particularly happens when installing some programs – but I’ve also had it happen when trying to print from some programs or just when starting up a program.

There are two ways to sort it.  The first is just to look at the taskbar at the bottom of the screen.  See if there’s a new button there that you weren’t expecting and try clicking on that. See if it’s asking you to click something and if so, clicking on it might get everything working again.

The other way is to use a special key combination:  Hold down the alt key on the left of the keyboard and tap the tab key.  The tab key is on the left, just above the caps lock key.  On some keyboards it says tab but on others it just has two little arrows, one pointing to the left, one to the right.

Each time you tap the tab key whilst holding down alt, it’ll cycle through the different windows that are open – and if you have a “hidden” one, it’ll get to that one too.  When you’ve got to the one you want, let go of both keys and you’ll be on that window, ready to click whatever it is that’s waiting for you to click.

As I say, sometimes a program really has crashed and there’s nothing for it but to close it down but it’s worth knowing this trick so that if the program is just waiting for you, you can get it going again.

A Word about Online Banking

Banks are understandably being careful to make their online banking as secure as possible.  They don’t want you setting up an account and then someone else being able to break into it and transfer your money to their account.  That’s why you have all sorts of passwords and so on, to keep it good and safe.

But I’m not convinced by Santander’s latest ploy.  They’ve set up at least some of the accounts so that in order to use the online set-up you have to tell them you want to, then get a code number email texted to you on a mobile phone, then type that code into the webpage.  It means that someone without your mobile can’t access your online account.

It’s a clever idea but it also means that if you don’t have a mobile phone (or don’t like using it), you can’t use their online banking.  What’s worse is they don’t tell you that when you sign up for the account. You only find out once they’ve already got your money.

Which I think is more than a little sneaky.

Oh, and watch out if you are setting up an online account with Santander and you have a short name.  When they ask for a “screen name” (ie the name they put on screen when you login in and they say “Hello Tim” or whatever), if you have a short name (eg “Tim”), they’ll tell you it’s invalid.  They won’t bother to tell you why, though, you’ll be left to puzzle that out for yourself.  But at least you know now – put in a longer name and it’ll be fine.

A handy little website – www.whenis.co.uk

When you want to know when, say, Easter is (or Father’s day, a bank holiday or any other kind of special day), the internet is very handy.  You can search for it by just typing something into the search box.

The only snag is you might get a page all about the day but not telling you the date.  Or it might give you the date in 2007. Or it might give you the date in a different country – which is fine for religious holidays but might be different for Mother’s day, bank holidays and so on.

But if you use the whenis site it’ll give you the UK dates for this year.  You can even click on a month and see what special days are in that month, if you’re sure there’s something coming up but aren’t sure what.  (You still have to remember Wedding Anniversaries, other half’s birthdays and so on, though!)

 

Updated Videos – I forgot last time!

 

Last time I forgot to mention that my video course (Tame Your PC in 6 Easy Lessons) is newly updated.  This 2nd edition now covers the new Windows 7 and also has some other tweaks to make them a bit easier to use.  I also found I couldn’t stop recording helpful videos so I’ve added the extras as “bonus” videos.

 

I’d meant to mention it last time but must have been distracted when I mentioned about the soon-to-arrive-baby!  Anyway, to read more (and if you like, order them on free trial – the videos, not the baby…) click here.

 

One person said about the first edition: “I’ve done two ten week courses on computers and I have learnt more from these videos than I did on the courses” so it’s well worth having a look!

 

A quick thank you

I couldn’t sign off without saying thank you to everyone who’s passed on their best wishes for the little one we’re expecting in early July.  Julie is doing fine and the baby is the right way up and growing at the right rate and so on.  No doubt within a week or so I’ll start asking every ten minutes whether anything’s happening yet but so far I’ve managed to hold myself back!

Well, that’s all for this time – the cot we’ve ordered has just arrived at the door (I’m writing this newsletter from home) so I’m going to go and have a look at how to put it up!

Yours

Tim Wakeling

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